Hatem Ben Arfa to return for Newcastle against Sunderland

Ben Arfa could return to bench for Benfica… and is set to take on Sunderland in derby

By
Colin Young

PUBLISHED:

09:30 GMT, 9 April 2013

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UPDATED:

23:04 GMT, 9 April 2013

Newcastle United midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa could make a shock return to the bench for tomorrow's Europa League tie with Benfica.

The France midfielder, who has missed the last month with a recurrence of the hamstring injury which has hampered most of his season, was originally ruled out for the rest of the campaign by manager Alan Pardew.

But Ben Arfa, who suffered the injury in Moscow last month, has given Pardew a welcome boost as the Toon boss contemplates whether to field his strongest side for the European quarter-final, which Portuguese league leaders Benfica lead 3-1 from last week's first leg at the Stadium of Light, or for Sunday's Tyne-Wear derby at St James's Park.

Swagger: Hatem Ben Arfa is Newcastle's most talented player

Swagger: Hatem Ben Arfa is Newcastle's most talented player

Captain Fabricio Coloccini and France
international defender Mathieu Debuchy are also in line for comebacks
from injury in Sunday's North East while Yohan Cabaye, who suffered a
foot injury in Sunday's win over Fulham, is unlikely to be risked
against Benfica so he will be fit to face Sunderland.

Ben Arfa had a short run-out at St
James' on Sunday ahead of the Fulham clash and has made excellent
progress under the watchful eye of Pardew's medical team, and a
consultant from France.

Pardew said: 'He thinks he is now 100
per cent and we are treating him as that. He is running and there could
be a cameo against Sunderland.

'He has a week's work and if he gets through that he could be involved.'

With a sell-out expected at St James'
tomorrow night, the Newcastle boss has warned supporters they will need
to be patient to help the team through a testing night.

Alan Pardew

Paolo Di Canio

Touchline passion: Both Alan Pardew and Paolo Di Canio will be targeting three points on Sunday

Benfica, who lead Porto in their
domestic league, are unbeaten in 30 games but face a Newcastle side who
have not in 13 European home games – 24 if the Intertoto Cup defeat to
Deportivo La Coruna more than 10 years ago is discounted.

Pardew added: 'We just need to get
ourselves in a good position. If we can get a goal with 20 minutes to go
we can do it. That's the agenda for me.

'Our fans need to understand we go
gung-ho for two goals we are just going to get killed. They have real
quality on the break and we have got to be very intelligent and
patient.'

Sunderland head coach Paolo Di Canio
has no fresh injury worries for the weekend, although he must find a
central midfield replacement for Craig Gardner who is suspended after
picking up his 10th booking at Chelsea on Sunday.

The former Birmingham City midfielder blamed former Newcastle striker Demba Ba for his caution.

'It was not a yellow card,' Gardner said of the challenge which many felt could have earned a red.

'He just rolled around and forced the booking.'